Medicare Part D
by Ray La Foy
As of Jan. 1, 2006, the federal government expanded Medicare coverage with the launch of the Medicare Part D program. This program enables seniors to get the prescriptions they need, when they need them with the benefit of an insurance program that can really help lessen the annual costs for drugs. To take advantage of the program, however, Medicare recipients have to navigate a system that seems a little confusing on the surface.
To begin to understand how the new Medicare program works, it’s important to first understand a few basic facts. Part D is available to everyone on Medicare. Period. There are no other eligibility requirements. A Medicare recipient cannot be denied Part D coverage for medical reasons or income level. If you’re enrolled in Medicare, the prescription coverage is available. The choice to participate, however, is up to the individual.
The caveat here, however, is the coverage is voluntary. You have to enroll to get it, but don’t worry about denials, because they won’t be forthcoming. For those who already have solid prescription coverage from other sources, it’s important to carefully weigh the benefits of both. A private policy might in fact cover more for a lesser financial impact on the individual Medicare recipient, but it may not. Look to see which plan works better for your particular situation.
When enrolling in Medicare prescription coverage, the first thing recipients will notice is there are several options to choose from. There is no single drug plan and what’s even better is that Medicare doesn’t administer them – private drug plan companies do. For those on very limited incomes, the new coverage will allow Medicare to cover most of the drug costs. For those with very high drug expenses, there’s even a Medicare plan that will cover about 95 percent of the costs beyond a deductible each year.
To review the different plans available, it’s a good idea to speak directly to Medicare or check out the agency’s web site. The plans are diverse and are meant to assist as many different people and situations as possible. Ideally, the best way to approach studying the different plans is to look at each of the options while keeping your personal circumstances in mind.
For those who decide to use the Part D coverage, it’s important to note that the discount cards issued in the past are not the same thing. Those cards only provided discounts, not insurance. The new Part D coverage replaces those on a permanent basis.
Since Part D is new and it is a little confusing for Medicare clients to understand coming out of the gate, it’s important for interested seniors to get informed advice on choosing plans, benefits and so on. Medicare has promised to provide information to its clients each year prior to the annual open enrollment period, which will include a list of plans available and their benefits.
For other help, Medicare Part D recipients or those who want to enroll in coverage should visit the Medicare web site or call 1-800-633-4227. State agencies and the Social Security Administration may also be able to provide informed advice. Visit the Medicare web site here http://www.medicare.gov/medicarereform/drugbenefit.asp.
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